All for Gerald
Some men, men born into this life of politics and privilege, of wine with dinner and brandy with cigars and port with cheese, can knock back a drink effortlessly and never lose that veneer of charm and self control. They eat and drink, make polite conversation, flirt with one another’s wives and play complicated hands of cards all while sinking more than most people manage in a week.
Gerald, however, had never mastered that particular knack. His face beetrooted after the first glass and his nose had already started to get those dreadful bulbs on it, like the old men she saw through the window of the bookies.
Gloria watched him from across the room where she stood with the other wives. She had never got the hang of this sort of thing either, but she tried to keep herself quiet; hiding where she couldn’t blend in. Another knack Gerald had failed to grasp.
He bellowed where other men chortled, he swigged where they sipped, he swaggered where they tiptoed. He laughed too loudly at polite witticisms and bragged when he should have been modest.
Gloria could see the other wives’ veneers strain against some internal pressure as Gerald loudly retold some Lord the dreadful joke about the golfer in Venice for the third time that evening.
These parties were agony for Gloria and Gerald always stayed until the bitter end, even if it meant him being shaken awake from a deep and resonant slumber while his peers smirked behind their hands at him.
And at me, thought Gloria, nibbling frantically at what the waiter had called hand-chipped vegetable slivers, but tasted an awful lot like salt and vinegar crisps to her.
Tonight, though, Gerald had limbered up with a few glasses before they’d left and it was all too much for him. He couldn’t see the patronising smirks of the younger politicians as they made fun of him to his face with subtleties he couldn’t understand. His red face was greasy with sweat which he mopped at with a Marks and Spencers handkerchief.
Gloria tried not to see the smug, pitying glances the other wives shot at her while pretending to talk about upholstery or tapestry or whatever it was. Gloria wished herself home with a nice paperback, but settled in resignedly. She would make up for his boorishness with modesty and politeness.
It was all for Gerald, after all. Gerald whom she loved and wanted to see succeed so very badly...
As they poured Gerald into his taxi that night he roused himself to give her a wet kiss on the cheek and Gloria felt a long forgotten tenderness swell up in her chest. She smiled up at his big drunken sweaty face.
“You mustn’t worry old girl,” slurred Gerald “don’t take any of it to heart.”
Gloria’s smile froze.
“You mustn't listen to a word of it. Oh I hear what they say about you, but don’t you worry my love, we’ll get you up to standard. Perhaps start by maybe having a bit less wine with your dinner, eh?! Don’t feed the gossip mill I say.”
And Gerald fell back against the seat of the car snoring loudly in time with the engine.